The axe has finally fallen and the names of those who have been retrenched by Radio Africa Group have started trickling out. From initial reports, the retrenchment signals a clinical clean-up that will leave the media house with skeleton staff.
Day one of the layoff started with sales department where more than half of the business executives have been sent home and their clients either repossessed by the company or redistributed to others. It then moved to the editorial department, where the Star newspaper appears to have been the biggest causality.
Some of the senior journalists working for The Star newspaper who received letters today include head of opinion desk Wycliffe Muga and his colleague Ibrahim Oruko after the opinion desk was reportedly scrapped. Reporters who have been laid off include David Mwere (news), Elly Gitau (entertainment), Lucy Wangamata (features), Dominic Wabala (investigations & crime), Henry Wanyama (news), Chrispinus Wekesa (City Hall) as well as court reporter Sam Kiplagat and court reporter Philip Kamakya.
The other journalists include sports editor Sulubu Tuva, features editor Karen Mbugua as well Khalsa Lakhvir, the head of creative and design who was appointed last year during the relaunch of the Star newspaper.
From radio side Cornelius Muli, who was standing in manager for Kiss FM but was in charge of counties sales for radio, has been pushed out, alongside Bath Baari, who wad head of digital sales at Radio Africa and head of XFM and Gukena FM Rahab Wangu.
For some, the die had been cast. A month ago, the profile column written by Oruko mysteriously disappeared from the newspaper. It is understood that it was stopped by the top editors, leaving him without anything to do.
Most of those sacked had found a soft landing at Radio Africa after suffering the same fate in other media houses. Wabala and Kiplagat, for example, are former Nation journalists, while Mwere and Oruko worked for other small newspapers. Interestingly, some blame newsroom politics for the changes, in which some journalists with strong track records have been pushed out.
“The editorial leadership at the Star fears independent minds,” said a Star journalist who keenly follows newsroom politics at Lion Place. “If you look at those who have gone, they were either threats to other people’s survival or they held independent minds.”More people are expected to be given letter tomorrow, which will dig deeper into radio and digital.
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However, things won’t be smooth even after tomorrow as the management has promised more changes after three months. Insiders believe this will be the mother of them all as it may include closing down some radio stations and even The Star newspaper to focus on more profitable units. The company’s management will give the remaining staff time to inject life into the products but if it doesn’t work, then hard decisions will be made on them.
Retrenchments in media industry have raised concern among various players, who see the layoffs as career killers. Nation just concluded its layoff two weeks ago, while Standard is still smarting from a radical surgery in late 2015.